So Many Fabulous Options

camper teach girl to tie climbing rope know

Our morning began as any normal day does at camp… with a hot breakfast filled with lots of singing and enthusiasm! As the day went on, though, the campers were given different opportunities to challenge themselves by choice! A few of the trips that were offered today were up to our own zip line course, kayaking and canoeing trips out to the Nolichucky and French Broad rivers, and a hike to Quentin Falls! With so many fabulous options, it again became tricky for our campers to choose what they wanted to do most. Trips set out and the rest of our girls settled into their activities. Here at Rockbrook, our girls get to choose which activities they want to take for their three-day activity rotations. The night before a new rotation, girls head to their cabins while counselors come around signing them up for the four activities of their choice.

Throughout the day girls worked on looms, made colorful jelly soaps, threw different sized creations on the potter’s wheel, and rehearsed for our end-of-the-session camp play! No matter which activities the girls were in, they were fully invested! For Twilight this evening, we also had a variety of counselor-led events in which the girls could participate. First, there were games of pickleball going on at our new pickleball courts! Girls from different lines came down and tried a new sport. They all enjoyed trying something new and even improved their skills. Next, we had a guided meditation session in the Junior Lodge. After a long and busy day, sometimes it’s nice to sit back and reflect. Girls grabbed a yoga mat, sat down, closed their eyes, and listened to soft words spoken by one of our fabulous counselors.

girls wrapping yarn for weaving

The last option offered was a Zumba class in the gym! Once again, girls from different lines followed the fun dance moves lead by another one of our talented counselors. On top of all of these fun events, there were still some girls playing in the creek, rolling down the hill, and reading on the porch of the Hillside Lodge.

To wrap up the night, the girls got to work on the Carrier Pigeon for evening program. The Carrier Pigeon has been a Rockbrook tradition since at least 1924. With Rockbrook’s 100 year birthday coming up in just 2 years, Sarah Carter and camp mom Marie Brown have been hard at work looking over precious Rockbrook history. The Carrier Pigeon is sent to campers every winter and features a variety of photos throughout the summer. In the old Carrier Pigeons, girls would receive theirs at the end of the summer and it would feature literary work from many girls who attended camp. This year we are trying to incorporate more literary works, such as songs and narratives, into our 2019 Carrier Pigeon.

Girls all over camp spent time tonight reflecting on their camp experiences. They were given a pen and paper along with the freedom to write about whatever they wanted. Girls excitedly turned in their work wondering if they will see it featured in the Carrier Pigeon come winter.

camp gymnastics girls

An Eruption of Camp Life

weaving kid at camp
kid shooting rifle

Let’s get right to the activities! That’s what every girl at camp was thinking as we finished breakfast this morning. Soon, counselors and campers alike filled every corner of camp with enthusiastic action. Amazing complex weavings seemed to spring from the looms in no time. Clay sculptures, friendship bracelets, decorative paper calendars, and small paintings became creative realities. Sports too!  Girls learned about firing rifles, shooting arrows and hitting tennis balls. The lake was busy all day despite some lingering drizzle parts of the day. The horseback riding staff taught their first mounted lessons. The adventure staff took girls on a hike to see a nearby waterfall and several groups flew overhead on the Rockbrook zip line course. The performing arts staff  introduced new songs, and our Yoga instructor taught girls their first poses and relaxation techniques.  It was an impressive eruption of camp life!

During their free time— three different 45 minute blocks  —the girls enjoyed freshly baked muffins as a mid-morning snack, waterslide rides and diving board tricks at the lake, for some a chance to walk or run “Charlotte’s loop,” and games of gaga ball, more tennis, and even more tetherball. After dinner, the sun was practically blinding as groups of girls sat on the hill to watch an amazing, cloud-marbled sunset.

zip line through the trees

What a luxury to have this kind of free, unhurried, self-directed time! When the rest of the year is often completely scheduled, camp gives girls a chance to decide for themselves what they’d like to do. They (not their parents) select their camp activities. They (not their teachers or coaches) decide how to spend their time. Camp provides extraordinary opportunities, and exactly the right kind of encouragement to try new things at each girl’s individual pace. If you’ve ever wondered how to inspire children to be more independent and self motivated, this is it. You give them a real chance to do things on their own!  Camp supports and empowers kids in this way, and it can make a big difference for them long after the closing campfire.

Of course, we’re just getting started. Everyone is settling in nicely at camp, making quick new friends as we share this time together in “the heart of a wooded mountain.” Take some time to browse through the photo gallery and you’ll see what I mean. Meanwhile, let’s us know if you have any questions, or better yet, write your camper a letter or an email.  She’ll love it!

teen girls holding muffins

3rd Session Video Snapshot – 2

Here is the latest highlights video from Robbie Francis of Go Swan Filmworks. Robbie spent last Saturday filming, quietly capturing simple moments of life at camp, and now editing for us another of his wonderful short videos.

Watching these videos really is fascinating, and they deserve multiple viewings. We love how well they convey the sweet interactions between the girls, and the overall happiness that colors our days together here. Take a look. You’ll see what I mean.

Click here for the video. Or see below.

2nd Session Highlights Video – 3

We often struggle to convey just how active and engaged the campers are during an ordinary day at Rockbrook. We can list activities and do fairly well capturing things in photographs for the online gallery, but nothing beats a video. Take a look at this third video (1:48) highlighting the session. Robbie shot it last Saturday, and like the previous two, it’s a fascinating peek into the lives of your girls at camp.

Truly fascinating!

P.S. If you missed the two earlier videos of Second Session, they are here and here. 🙂

This Place is Bustling

wood working camper
Wood Working Bracelet

During breakfast we announced another special activity for the girls today: a visit to George Peterson’s woodworking studio for a tour and project workshop. George has offered different workshops like this to our Rockbrook girls for three years now. His wife Margaret is an Alumna, and his two daughters attend camp every summer. George is widely known for his art, his creative carving, etching, burning and painting of different species of wood, old wooden skateboards, and skis. He’s displayed his work in galleries in New York, Tokyo, San Francisco, and Atlanta, and continues to work as a professional artist out of his studio, The Circle Factory.

When the girls arrived, George first toured them around the studio pointing out several of his specialty tools, like drills, saws, torches, and the giant lathe he uses to turn logs into huge bowls. The girls were fascinated by the stacks of raw materials they saw too: slabs of wood, old skateboards, leather cords, paints and inks. There were finished pieces and works in progress displayed almost everywhere. Each girl was then able to make their own project, a leather and wood bracelet. With help from George and Margaret, the girls used a drill press, a carving tool, sandpaper and a metal “RBC” brand to shape a small chip of multicolored skateboard that they then sewed to a leather strap. There were multiple steps to the project, but the girls each had a cool, one-of-a-kind bracelet to wear proudly when they were done.

tennis camp girl
camp archery girl shooting

For all of us who stayed in camp, our morning was filled with a whole range of activities. Girls were climbing high above camp on Castle Rock, trying to “slay the dragon” (which is lingo for climbing to the top of our route called “Dragon Tail”). Others were whooping as they flew through the trees on our zip line course. A few Senior girls took on the challenge of climbing the Alpine tower blindfolded, while at the lake, Sarah and Stephanie, our kayaking instructors, were teaching a roll clinic. Archers and riflemen (girls actually!) were gleefully shooting holes in their targets. Equestriennes were gliding their horses around the arena, outdoor ring, and jump course. Girls played tennis; they shot basketball, and swam laps in the lake. Of course, there was non-stop arts and crafts too, from weaving on the loom to stringing beads and glazing pottery, making candles and blended dot painting. It’s difficult for our photographers to capture all this activity— though they do pretty well! — but you can tell, this place is bustling!

Just as lunch ended today and the girls were heading back to their cabins for rest hour, the sky began to darken and suddenly our lightning warning system sounded its alarm. A few stragglers took off running, and about 3 minutes later we all jumped when a loud crack of a lightning struck nearby, not so close that we could tell where it hit exactly, but close enough to be frightening. Fortunately, everyone was safely inside, but then as the storm built overhead, the wind picked up, the temperature dropped 15 degrees, and a hard rain began to fall. A moment later, it was hailing pea-sized hail! For about 5 minutes, that storm passed by and put on quite a show. Several girls told me later that this was the first time they had ever seen hail.

The main event of the evening was something many of the girls, particularly the Senior campers, anticipate and look forward to every summer: a dance with Camp Carolina. This was a chance to get cleaned up a bit (find that hairbrush), pull out a special outfit, costume, or glittery makeup, but mostly to enjoy jumping around with friends to favorite pop songs.

camp dance girls
girls camp dance

With both camps involved, there are too many children to hold a single dance for everyone, so we held two again: one dance at Rockbrook for the younger boys and girls, and another at Camp Carolina for the older ones. For about and hour and a half, both dances kept everyone moving, pausing now and then for a photo or a water break. Everyone was hot and sweaty by the end of it all, but the girls had a great time dancing together and singing along to the songs. Oh, and there were boys there too, though that didn’t seem to matter much. It was a fun, classic way to spend an evening at camp.

camp dance crowd

2nd Session Highlights Video – 2

Here’s another glimpse into life at camp these days from videographer Robbie Frances. Once again he’s done a great job capturing simple moments around camp, some of the action, and many of the heartwarming smiles we’re seeing everywhere.

It’s not quite 2 minutes long, but has such a nice feel, it deserves to be watched more than once.

We hope you enjoy it.

First Session Highlights Video – 2

Our friend and videographer Robbie Frances returned to camp late last week to film, and now a couple days later, he’s edited a new video for all of us. In just two minutes, the video wonderfully depicts the joys and accomplishments our Rockbrook girls are experiencing each day camp.

Take a look, and let us know what you think.

Meaningful Action

Small child kayaking camp
outdoor yoga camp girls

It’s a comment we hear a lot around here… from perceptive visitors taking a tour while camp is in session, from counselors marveling at simple moments of their day, and certainly from campers as they reflect on how camp feels to them. “Everyone seems so happy,” or “These are some happy girls,” or “Rockbrook makes me happy!” I think I’ve seen it on a t-shirt too; “Camp is my Happy Place.” And it really is true. There’s something special about life at camp that makes everyone here remarkably happy, especially when compared with the outside world. If you have been scanning our daily photo galleries then you have a sense of it. Camp life has a general feeling of well-being, joyful engagement, and belonging.

But here’s the thing— this feeling isn’t dependent on the activities we’re enjoying. It’s not like we’re happy only when kayaking, weaving, riding a horse, hiking through the woods, or playing tetherball. Sure, we are happy when we are doing exciting things like riding through the trees on a zipline, and we are happy when we savor the day’s surprise muffin flavor, but the happiness of camp extends to other times that might, from a different perspective, be described as “work,” or even as “boring.” Camp girls are happy at times “just hanging out,” sweeping their cabin, taking their turn wiping their dining hall table, or simply walking down the line after hearing the bell for lunch.

In other words, the happiness we experience at camp is not the same as the fun. …or even pleasure or satisfaction. Obviously, camp is great fun, regularly punctuated by pleasure, and satisfying in lots of ways. These are the moments we write home about— getting a bullseye in archery, throwing a pot on the wheel, going back for thirds of Rick’s homemade guacamole and chicken flautas. Everyday there are activities and special events designed to be fun and carefully planned to be satisfying and enjoyable (a trip to sliding rock, a drumming workshop, a wet and wild creek hike, or simply singing together during morning assembly, for example). These moments are entertaining and great, and they certainly contribute to the happiness of camp, but they do not alone make camp a happy place. There must be something more going on. If not the fun, what is it about camp life that encourages such happiness?

Girl Shooter with Target
Silly Rafting Camp Girls

An idea from Aristotle might be helpful, namely that happiness stems from “meaningful action.” The notion is that happiness is not a momentary, fleeting fulfillment of desires (like escape from boredom, for example), but is instead a way of being where one’s actions are meaningful.  What makes our actions “meaningful” becomes the question, but perhaps the secret to camp happiness it that it somehow lends meaning to our actions. What we do at camp means something to us as individuals.

OK, but when camp girls make a friendship bracelet, shoot riflery, or go whitewater rafting, how does it mean something to them? What’s special about camp that makes ordinary actions more “meaningful?” I’m not sure, but as one counselor who I was discussing this with put it, “It’s all about community.” She said what we do at camp means something because we do so much together, and we care for each other.

I love that idea because it suggests the importance of relationships, of beginning with kindness toward each other and fostering an environment where everyone is trusted, respected and loved. Do that, and we create a special place where we’re happy. In this way, I imagine all of our community values— care, cooperation, compassion, generosity —likewise contribute to our happiness by making whatever we’re doing more meaningful. So, being helpful in the dining hall, for example, is meaningful and makes us happy because it deepens our relationship with the other girls in our cabin. Sensing real encouragement and support from the people around you makes whatever you’re doing more meaningful.

There are probably other answers to this question about how camp life includes inherently meaningful action, and how it fosters such happiness, but I think our sense of community here is a powerful force linking the two. If so, we might use the idea prescriptively in the outside world and suggest that instead of adding more toys or more “fun” experiences, we can become happier by joining and supporting a camp-like community where our actions are meaningful.  It’s one of the lessons of camp: build positive relationships with the people around you, make your actions meaningful through those relationships, and you’re bound to be happier. Now that’s something to take home!

Camp Rafting Girls